VERO BEACH – Vero Beach City Councilman Brian Heady approached the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday to discuss their relationship over electricity.
“I just wanted to make sure that this county commission and the people don’t fan the fires of discontent when we need to work with the city toward a better future and lower rates,” Heady told commissioners.
He also said he wanted to assure the commission that the county residents who are on the city’s electric grid do have someone on the Vero Beach City Council fighting for accountability and equal rates.
The councilman brought up the Mayfield legislation, which would place the City of Vero Beach’s electric utility under the authority of the state Public Service Commission.
He told the commission that keeping the electric utility’s control local is important and that they should exhaust all options with local officials before going outside.
Commissioner Gary Wheeler agreed with Heady.
“Government has a tendency and politicians have a tendency to try and move things farther from the people under the guise their going to fix things quicker,” he said, later adding, “I think government closer to the people works the best.”
He also said he believes the county commission has been supportive of working with the city and residents on the utility issue.
Councilman Heady told commissioners that he had heard there might be a couple on the board who were considering a lawsuit against the city over the electric issue.
Such talk is “not productive,” the councilman said.
County Commissioner Joe Flescher agreed and added that it gets into “political games” and does not serve the public interest.
While commissioners thanked Heady for addressing the issue, not all share Heady’s opinion enough is being done at the council level to bring relief to electric customers.
“I’m going to approach it as a trust but verify,” said Commissioner Wesley Davis of the city’s actions. “I will be looking over the city’s shoulder.”
The commissioner, who at a prior meeting briefly entertained the idea of the county getting involved in a possible lawsuit, took issue with the city’s practice of transferring electric utility funds into the city’s general fund.
“I’m not going to sit by and let it happen,” he said.
Commissioner Bob Solari, a former Vero Beach councilman, recounted his own issues with the city when he served at the dais and reminded Heady that he is only one member on the council.
Solari said that – as a council member – getting financial information from the city staff was a challenge, a challenge he fears Heady and others will continue to face.
Heady agreed that getting information is a challenge.
“The minute you left city council the flow of information stopped,” Heady said, adding there are multiple current council members who will be asking for and demanding information.
“I wish you the best of luck with this,” Solari said to Heady.